As the railroad streaked westward from Harpers Ferry, the C&O Canal fell hopelessly behind in the race for Ohio.
Burdened by a lack of building supplies and a scarcity of skilled labor, the canal encountered serious financial problems and did not reach Cumberland, Maryland until 1850 —- eight years after the railroad reached that point. Plans to continue further westward were abandoned.
Made obsolete by the faster and less expensive railroad, the C&O Canal never attained any great measure of economic success, but did transport coal, flour, grain, and lumber to Washington for nearly 90 years. Canal operations ceased in 1924 when a flood devastated the Potomac Valley, leaving the canal in ruins.